Do you remember the 2006 E. Coli outbreak from bagged spinach that led to nearly 200 illnesses and 3 deaths including a 2-year-old child?
Of course you remember.
It’s stories like these that make your ears perk.
Because as the owner or operator of an Ohio farm, you face the reality of this risk happening on your farm every day.
And here we are, more than a decade later and outbreaks like the one mentioned above are still happening all too frequently.
We have the numbers to prove it.
The government estimates there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually - causing 1 in 6 Americans to get sick per year, resulting in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Recognized as the most sweeping food safety reform in over 70 years, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is on a mission to curb these numbers; to make drastic improvements on the safety and security of the American food supply.
For Ohio farms, it all starts with the Produce Safety Rule.
What is FSMA Produce Safety Rule?
I have summarized a few of the key requirements of the Produce Safety Rule below:
- Agricultural Water: Ohio farms will be required to ensure that any water intended or likely to contact produce or food-contact surfaces is safe and of adequate sanitary quality through periodic testing and inspection requirements.
- Biological Soil Amendment of Animal Origin: The Produce Safety Rule requires untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin, such as raw manure, be applied in a manner that doesn’t contact covered produce during application - and minimize the potential for contact with covered produce after application.
- Sprouts: Ongoing and consistent testing is required for sprout irrigation water, sprouts, and the growing, harvesting, packing and holding environment to prevent and mitigate the risk of causing foodborne illness. Sprout operations were given less time to comply with FSMA. See the FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety for more details on compliance dates for Ohio Sprout farms.
- Domesticated and Wild Animals: The Produce Safety Rule requires Ohio Farms that rely on grazing animals to identify and not harvest produce that is likely to be contaminated by examining the growing area and all covered produce, regardless of the harvest method used. In addition, Ohio farms should conduct additional assessments during the growing season to identify potential contamination.
- Worker Training and Health and Hygiene: Ohio farms should implement proper safety and health policies and procedures focused on hygienic practices to prevent contamination and discuss the importance of health and hygiene with their team.
- Equipment, Tools and Buildings: The Produce Safety Rule requires proper sanitation and training of maintenance and ongoing cleaning of equipment and tools to prevent contamination due to inadequate sanitation and upkeep.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is rolling the Produce Safety Rule out over several years, beginning with large Ohio farms first - farms with more than $500,000 in sales to be in compliance with FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule by January 2018.
But this doesn’t mean smaller farms are off the hook.
Rather, the rule is providing them additional time to secure the proper resources to be in compliant with the Produce Safety Rule in the years to come.
The compliance date for small farms (farms with $250,000 to $500,000 in sales) begins January 2019, and the compliance date for very small farms ($25,000 to $250,000 in sales) begins January 2020.
So, regardless of the size of your Ohio farm - the Produce Safety Rule may apply to you. Here are the exemptions as indicated by the FDA.
Here are 3 Ways To Protect Your Ohio Farm and Maintain FSMA Compliance
- Schedule an On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR): This is a voluntary program for farmers like you. If you choose to participate, a team including state and FDA regulators and educators will visit the farm and offer insights, advice and technical assistance.
- Connect with the FDA’s Produce Safety Network (PSN): The PSN is a network of specially trained FDA staff located throughout the country to support farmers and state regulators. PSN members will interact directly with your farm, listen to your challenges, and address any questions or concerns you have about the Produce Safety Rule.
- Work with a credible Food and Agribusiness Recall Protection Specialist to design a comprehensive risk management and insurance program tailored to the unique risks your Ohio farm faces.
You probably have more questions than answers about the Produce Safety Rule, FSMA compliance and how it all applies to your Ohio farm.
I’m Pat O’Neill, a Food and Agribusiness Recall Protection Specialist, and I have access to a network of people and resources that can help ensure you are meeting FSMA standards.
Please call me at (330) 334-1561 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was adapted from Zywave. This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.